Infrared absorption measurements of molecular water in sheared Cambrian quartzites in the footwall to the Moine thrust reveal a decrease in water content from 4080 to 1570 ppm with increasing recrystallization traced toward the overlying thrust at the Stack of Glencoul in northwest Scotland. These results are contrary to the expected correlation between shear strain and water content for quartz deformed by dislocation creep and water-weakening processes. The observed inverse correlation indicates that fluid inclusions and hydrous defects within grains were lost by mobile grain boundary sweeping and grain boundary diffusion. Although reduced water contents might lead to hardening as chemical weakening is diminished, quartz mylonites in the immediate footwall (5 mm) to the thrust are characterized by intense strain localization and contain the least water, and there is little evidence of shear zone widening. Water weakening appears to have been important throughout the quartz mylonites, controlled by the presence of water, not by water concentration. Fluids present within relict inclusions and at grain boundaries may have governed the high water fugacities critical for water weakening.
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